ITDS picks up steam
Development of the International Trade Data System for automating cooperation among agencies that regulate cross-border trade is expected to gain impetus after Congress gave the program a formal statutory basis in the recently enacted SAFE Port Act.
Adoption of the program has sputtered for several years as only a handful of the more than 80 federal agencies that collect international trade information for statistical or regulatory purposes have participated in linking their information technology systems. The slow process has frustrated many companies and trade organizations interested in streamlining their compliance processes.
ITDS is designed to eliminate redundant filing of commercial data to separate agencies by allowing companies to electronically transmit required information one time through a common portal that automatically distributes it to relevant agencies in the preferred format of each user. The system is being designed to piggyback on the capabilities of the modernized Customs trade data system known as the Automated Commercial Environment now under development. ACE will be the pipeline for all data flows to and from industry.
The new law mandates that any agency involved with clearing or licensing imports or exports must use ITDS unless it gets a waiver from the Office of Management and Budget.
The law strengthened ITDS by establishing an interagency steering committee, giving more authority to the informal ITDS board that has been in place for the past dozen years and potentially opening it up to new representatives.
It also required OMB to sit on the steering committee, which is important because ITDS participation has budget implications and OMB is in a position to prod agencies to use their funds for ITDS and also make funds available for that purpose. OMB also has responsibility under the Paperwork Reduction Act to monitor how agencies are reducing the paperwork burden on the private sector.
The law also required the Treasury Department to consult with the private sector, including the Department of Homeland Security's Commercial Operations Advisory Committee (COAC), on developing uniform data submission requirements, procedures and schedules for ITDS.
At COAC's quarterly meeting Nov. 9 in New York, Timothy Skud, the Treasury Department's deputy assistant secretary for tax, trade and tariff policy, extended an offer for one or two COAC members to sit in on the monthly ITDS board meetings. He likened the assignment to the Defense Department's policy of embedding reporters with Army troops in Iraq for an upfront view of the fighting, but added 'I don’t think you’ll need a flak jacket or anything.'
Peggy Rutledge, an executive with supply chain security software company GreenLine Systems, volunteered for the job.
Skud acknowledged that he has 'been unhappy' with the progress in producing a standard data set to eliminate redundant reporting, but said that in the past several months the steering committee has undergone changes, and that it is covering ground more quickly. He said he hoped to have a the completed data set available by the time Customs and Border Protection's Trade Support Network industry committee meets in December.
Meanwhile, Treasury will use the requirement to file to Congress an annual report on ITDS progress as a management tool by producing an early draft to show how each agency is doing and push those that are falling behind schedule, Skud said.